After planning their winter break trip for almost ten months, the Eastern-sponsored New Orleans missions team received a disheartening phone call a few days before they were scheduled to leave. The church they had planned to stay at had overbooked the week of Jan. 2-11, meaning they no longer had a place to stay.
As if that were not enough, their plans to work with Habitat for Humanity also fell through, due to a miscommunication with registration and necessary paperwork. The team was stuck with no place to stay and no work to do. Still, they did not lose hope.
“We didn’t really know what to expect and didn’t know what we were getting into,” junior Rebecca Schnader said. “We were really walking with God through it.”
Fortunately, senior Bethany Crabbs’ father had some connections in New Orleans and was able to set the team up with Berean Bible Church, who offered the group a place to stay and a variety of work projects and ministries for the week.
“I was a little worried because it was supposed to be a work trip, so I didn’t know how everyone would handle it,” said team leader and senior Julie Pieffer. “But everyone was really flexible.”
The team spent a few days working with families whose homes were damaged from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, including one family who still had not moved back into their house and were staying in a trailer nearby.
The group spent one day walking the city streets, handing out McDonald’s cheeseburgers to and talking with the homeless.
“I had never done street ministry, so that was new to me,” team advisor and librarian Jonathan Beasley said. “I felt a bit anxious about that … They told us to do whatever we felt led by the Spirit to do. There was no set plan. The first person I met I started talking to and the anxiety just went away.”
Another day was spent at a local charter school, Fischer Elementary, where the team again helped with numerous projects and went into classrooms and assisted the teachers for the day.
“For me, the school was the best part, because I’m going to be a teacher,” said Pieffer, who plans to be a teacher when she graduates. “It was crazy. We didn’t need any background checks; they just let us in and gave us free reign of the school. We could be with the kids and they came up and just started hugging us. It was really cool.”
Pieffer, who, along with senior Kristin Watson and juniors Krystal Cairns and Rebekah Miller, went on the New Orleans trip last year, said that things did look better in the city but that there was still a lot of work that needs to be done.
“It’s still the same feel,” Pieffer said. “That city has its own feel, but the people are so friendly.”
After recently being named the leading city for violence, Pieffer said that New Orleans could really use continued prayers from the Eastern community as they deal with ongoing problems and rebuilding.